Quick Recap of Last Week’s Tech News

There have been a number of things I’ve been meaning to comment on in the last couple of weeks and not got around to it until now. Rather than write long posts on each, I’ll quickly summarise what I think of these points.

AOL wants to buy Yahoo!

This is I think good news. They are both very similar companies and to me at least, it makes sense to create one bigger one to help them both better take on Microsoft and Google. At one stage, AOL even directly copied Yahoo’s own homepage so I’m sure it wouldn’t be too difficult to integrate both of their services together if this were to happen.

BlackBerry Playbook Announced

You may say that this deserves a post of it’s own, but if you want to read that then you’d be on Engadget, TechCrunch, Gizmodo and all of the others. Personally, while I think it’s cool and probably a smart play for a very quickly maturing market, I can’t say I’m very excited for it.

From what I’ve always heard, touch screens by companies other than Apple tend to be more frustrating and hard to press than the multi-touch displays that are such a joy to use. On the software and hardware sides, I can’t see them making anything that can genuinely rival what Apple can do. I liken this to Android in a way. It tries to be mainstream but ends up being too geeky and confusing for a lot of that audience.

Android is making steps forward so it’s not to say Blackberry can’t do the same. I feel the same way about tablets from companies like Samsung. I just doubt whether they really have what it takes to go head to head with Apple, but we’ll find out soon.

Google Launches URL Shortening Service Publically

This is hardly huge news, I just wish they had done it much earlier because now they are way too far behind everyone else to compete.,,, and many more including now Twitter‘s own service are all established now and I don’t think Google are going to be able to get a foothold in the market.

In order for them to really be successful with this, they need to get two things started. Firstly, they need to get integrated into Twitter and other news apps on Apple’s and other devices so that more people will be likely to choose to use it. They also need to give users a bookmarklet so that they can shorten links much quicker. Currently, you have to copy the URL, visit and paste it in the box to get the short code.

While they are some way behind the competition in the process or shortening the links, where they do shine is in the stats they provide. Google have the best servers in the world and they put them to good use here, tracking data such as clicks, browsers, locations and platform used.

I don’t think until they make the changes I’ve noted, they can challenge the heavyweights of this growing category of service, but it’s Google. If they wanted to take it seriously, they could surely trounce everyone else pretty easily.

My IGN Updates

MY IGN is the cool social networking service built into It replaces the original community aspect of the site and makes it much better. I’ve written a detailed post on it before, so check that out if you need to get up to speed on what it does.

The new updates now allow peace of mind regarding blogging. At first, they had stated that all blog posts written in the new wordpress powered blogging system would be deleted when the service left beta. That is now not an issue and all posts written with either platform will be kept. This is great news.

They have also made the service more stable, have given more security options to prevent people from spamming your wall by only allowing people you follow to do so. You can also block users now.

Finally, you can see who you follow and who follows you and quite a few other improvements including post deletion. I’m really excited to see how they keep improving MY IGN going forward, because it definitely fills a void in the social media market as I’ve said before, and it has great potential.

The next thing I’d like to see them do is integrate the service into the IGN app for iPhone and maybe their mobile site which appears to be inspired by YouTube‘s mobile version.

Apple Updates iTunes Ping

This happened quite a while ago now, but essentially what Apple did was remove the genius sidebar, which I and probably most other people never used to begin with, and replaced it with the Ping sidebar. The new sidebar shows your recent activity from bands or friends you follow. When you click on a song in your library you get the option to like or comment on that song in the sidebar, or by clicking a button next to the track you have highlighted.

When the artist of the song you’ve highlighted has a profile on Ping, you’ll be provided a link to that in the sidebar as well, which is useful if you didn’t know before that they were active on the social network or not, or if you want to quickly check their activity.

It’s not a major upgrade to Ping but it makes sense and probably should have been there from the start. Genius never really needed the sidebar so it’s good that they’re putting that space to better use now.


Apple Event: iTunes Ping

Image representing iTunes as depicted in Crunc...
The old iTunes logo. The new one ditches the CD. Image via CrunchBase

Ping is a new social network by Apple, only accessible within the iTunes application on Mac, PC or iDevice which is specifically about music, and nothing else.

When Steve first announced ping, I was initially sceptical, asking questions like: Do we really need another social network? Why is this not accessible in a browser? and so on. Not to mention that I think the name is a bit poor by Apple’s standards. I think they could have come up with a better one that didn’t sound like something Microsoft would come up with.

Both of the above questions have been answered for me though. In a similar fashion to how MY IGN meets the needs of gamers in a way no other social network does, Ping does the same thing in that it gives people a good place to discuss music and follow their favourite artists.

Other places have tried to integrate social networking and music, for example Spotify. They updated their app to integrate with Facebook. The issue there is that while it works well, you have to disable a lot of the settings to stop it from spamming your news feed with junk. To me, Facebook is about silly status updates that are rarely important, posting photos of family and friends that aren’t designed to be Flickr masterpieces, chatting to friends and playing browser games occasionally.

The problem is that when you get into integrating complex subjects like music or gaming into pure social sites like FB, you end up with clutter and spam, and that isn’t what the vast majority of people want from that type of site.

Because Ping is so closed off and accessible only via iTunes itself makes it interesting and unique, and you’re never going to have to deal with fake accounts for artists because there will be links to ping profiles from Artists bio pages on the iTunes store, if they have an account. It’s a very controlled and closed system, which some will disagree with, but in this case it works well and integrated into the iTunes experience nicely.

Another thing I noticed is that you can’t actually do a status update by itself. You can comment on activity, for example liking a song or purchasing something but you can’t type without a reason, which it definitely a good thing as it keeps things on subject as much as possible.

It’s interesting that despite the iTunes Store selling all kinds of content now from Apps to TV shows, they have nothing to do with Ping whatsoever. I wonder whether that will change any time soon. My guess would be no, as they seem to want to emphasize the link between iTunes and music once again, and go back to their roots so to speak. This is reinforced by their move to bring the nano back to its predominantly music origins and remove the distractions from the last couple of versions.

Once they get the rampant spam under control and possibly include some kind of friend importing tool from other networks and email accounts, I think they’ll be on to a winner. This isn’t supposed to replace Facebook or Twitter as Steve said during his keynote, but instead it’s a kind mini networking companion to iTunes with a clear single purpose in mind. For that reason I think many negative critics are reading far too much into what Apple are trying to do here.